call for a unified market regulation

Rousseau would not have liked the lack of freedom for content consumers.

The single digital market: a vision for Europe
Under current legislation, a single market for digital content remains elusive. The failure to adequately supply legal digital content is a growing problem – not only for consumers, but also for rights holders.
▶ This year sees the th anniversary of the

signing of Treaty of Paris, an agreement that laid the groundwork for European integration. Next year, meanwhile, will mark  years since the creation of the European Union in its current form and  years since the birth of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the prophets of European unification. The diversity, liberty and prosperity of modern Europe would surprise and delight even the most utopian of its architects. Plurality exists within unity, borders have disappeared and a single common market has been created to the benefit of all Europeans. Europe has, in short, been emancipated. Yet one last Iron Curtain stubbornly refuses to fall. Even today, in , a world of digital content remains captive behind judicial walls erected on behalf of economic-rights hold-

ers. Through a series of legislative Checkpoint Charlies – of which copyright abuse is the most prominent example – these economic-rights holders determine how, when, where and by whom legal digital content can be accessed in Europe. Despite clear calls for a more balanced approach from consumer organizations such as the European Consumers’ Organisation (beuc); from digital distributors represented by the gsma, the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (etno), Cable Europe, EuroISPA and the European Broadcasting Union (ebu); and from ict leaders such as Ericsson, the gatekeepers refuse to relinquish their posts or look beyond their immediate self-interests. Were Rousseau writing today, he might well modify his most famous remark to the effect that although content consumers
EBR #3 2010 • 53

regulation call for a unified market

By clinging to outdated business methods such as windowing and territoriality, economic-rights holders are in fact creating the consumer behavior against which they so violently protest.
may be born free, content consumption is everywhere in chains. The position taken by the economic rights holders may be unpalatable, but it is at least understandable. It is more difficult to comprehend the acquiescence of the European authorities in preserving this digital Iron Curtain. Current restrictions have forced European consumers into a digital exile. Seeking an appropriate way to access legal digital content, and unable to satisfy this legitimate desire through a legitimate digital alternative, many resort to illegal file-sharing. Economic rights holders spare little expense in pursuing and prosecuting these individuals, and do not hesitate to ask courts or policymakers to mandate internet service providers (isps) and other intermediaries to police such behavior.

Ericsson is calling for full consumer access to legal, timely, competitively priced and wide-ranging compelling content offerings, and a free choice of when, where and how this legal digital content can be consumed. We call for an end to regulatory barriers and deliberate non-availability through windowing and territoriality. We call – a full  years after the Treaty of Paris – for a digital single market that not only meets the requirements of today’s and future European consumers, but also the requirements of European history.

isps are being forced to act as digital security agents on behalf of economic rights holders by listening in, screening, surveying and filtering the exchange of information between consumers. Such strict enforcement further damages the prospects of legal digital alternatives by introducing the principle of innovation by permission. It also carries unwelcome echoes of the old Eastern-bloc surveillance societies that modern Europe has decisively rejected. File-sharing is a symptom of a problem, rather than a problem in itself. This problem is the inadequate availability of legal, timely, competitively priced and wide-ranging choices of affordable digital-content offerings. Consumers also expect to be able to make decisions freely regarding when and how to consume the content of their choice. By clinging to outdated business methods such as windowing and territoriality, economic-rights holders are in fact creating the consumer behavior against which they so violently protest. How can we, as good Europeans, accept this state of affairs? The success of our European project is founded upon freedom of movement – for persons, goods, services and capital. Why should digital content be an exception? How can policymakers continue to endorse the vested interests of economicrights holders at the expense of the promises of the single market and our fundamental freedoms?
54 • EBR #2 2011

This is a pan-European issue, and as such, it must be addressed uniformly across the continent. To date, efforts to revise legislation have focused on protecting existing practices and content-distribution models, which has unfortunately reinforced the underlying problem and hence its symptoms. Instead, targeted policy reforms that stimulate the growth of a well-functioning supply of legal digital content available on-demand for multiple screens are needed if actors at all stages of the value chain are to develop products that successfully meet the evolving needs of consumers. As we observe the anniversaries of the events and figures that have shaped today’s Europe, the continuing absence of a digital single market reminds us that full integration remains a work in progress. However, the goal of this integration process has always been to overcome traditional power politics based on parochial interests in favor of a greater good. Europe is as much a system of values as a collection of states, and these values demand the creation of a digital future that benefits all Europeans, not just a few. ●
AUTHOR ▶ RENE SUMMER is Director Government and Industry Relations, Ericsson Group. His expertise is in media, content, copyright and convergence. He is also General Manager of Government Affairs for Ericsson in Australia and New Zealand, responsible for spectrum, telecom and media/content regulation. Summer is a member of the Board of Directors of the Internet Industry Association in Australia. (

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